Part 3, Chapter 18 Summary
As Thomas Hudson waits for Willie with Henry, he thinks of his fate and that had they taken the open sea instead of going into the channel, Peters would be alive and they would all be sitting around drinking beer that night. He tries not to think about that because this is his job. He checks on Henry, who wonders if frag bombs can explode from the intense heat of the sun. He hopes Ara has some water in the dinghy but does not think they put any in before they left.
The sound of the outboard motor of the dinghy is heard, and it comes around the point. It is riding high, and Ara is in the stern. He notices birds rising up and flying away. Henry speculates that Willie is well into the key. Ara climbs on board, carrying water and tea. He lies down low beside the two men. He tells Thomas Hudson that they saw nothing. He landed Willie on the far side. Ara then went out to the ship and explained everything to Antonio. He then filled up with gas and grabbed some provisions before returning straight to the turtle boat.
The three men lie low on the deck, watching the key. They see birds fly up and know either Willie or the Germans frightened them. The birds are dead giveaways to anyone’s location. They trace Willie’s progress across the key by the birds’ flight. Ara soon spots him on the beach, lying down to avoid being sighted. Ara slides over into the dinghy and casts off. Soon the dinghy returns with Willie lying in the bottom. His hands and face are scratched and bloody, bumpy from mosquito bites. He tells Thomas Hudson that there was nothing on the key. He does not think the Germans were over there. He believes they went inside the keys after they grounded the turtle boat. He is not sure if they spotted Thomas Hudson and the others. They decide to load Peters in the dinghy to be returned to the cruiser. As Ara places Peters in the dinghy, he notes how stiff he is relative to how limber he was in life.
Thomas Hudson and Henry look out from the hatches. They no longer whisper because they know the Germans cannot be close. Thomas Hudson looks around the boat and throws the ammunition over the side. He keeps the pistol even though it is not functioning. He wonders if the Germans left the wounded man behind as a “reception committee.” Henry thinks they should have kept the ammunition for evidence. Thomas Hudson says they have more than enough evidence already. Ara returns and Thomas Hudson tells Henry to stay on the turtle boat. If the Germans come out, he is to throw a frag into the skiff. Thomas Hudson and Ara then leave to return to the cruiser.